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Fort Hamilton Tigers, 25, Riverdale Kingsbridge Tigers, 23

Marlena Budna leads dominates net during Fort Hamilton victory

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Two years ago, Fort Hamilton High School sophomore Marlena Budna didn’t know a volleyball spike from a railroad spike. On Tuesday, she helped lead her school to its first city championship.

The 6-foot-1 middle hitter dominated the net during Fort Hamilton’s 25–23, 26–24 win over Riverdale/­Kingsbridge in the Public School Athletic League Class B final at York College in Jamaica, Queens.

Fort Hamilton (15-1) lost last year’s final. But every girl on the team knew this year would be different.

“This year we had one goal and one goal only,” Fort Hamilton coach Richard Sherry said.

Budna had 14 kills, including three straight points to close out the first set, and made nine blocks. She also had two big kills late in the second set after Riverdale/­Kingsbridge tied the score at 20–20 — exuding an energy she didn’t have last season.

“She is getting more confident and believing in herself,” said junior outside hitter Sarina Rozek, who had 10 kills. “Freshman year she always thought she was going to do badly.”

Fort Hamilton head coach Richard Sherry said Bunda’s stellar rise can be linked to her playing club ball with Rozek and playing with Fort Hamilton’s boy’s team at practice last spring, where she played against stronger players her own size.

“It helped a lot,” Bunda said. “It’s bigger competition. They are all taller and they hit harder.”

Height was on Fort Hamilton’s side against Riverdale. Bunda is part of a tall trio of hitters that includes 6-foot-2 junior Lana Kravtchenko and senior Emerald Shaw, who provided five kills off the bench. Kravtchenko had seven kills and nine blocks.

“It’s a clutch to have these big tall girls who are on the net using their height,” Sherry said.

Those three have plenty of size, but Rozek, who has packed the biggest punch all season, fittingly put down the championship point. She provided an emphatic end to Riverdale/­Kingsbridge’s comeback attempt after it tied the score at 24–24.

She joked with a teammate before the final point that she wanted to put the game away. When the ball hit the floor her teammates rushed after her in celebration.

“It felt so good to just do that.” Rozek said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.

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